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Big Ten Power Rankings: Ohio State and then what?

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer

Big Ten play gets started for real this weekend with five games in the conference, but here it is, the first day of October and we only know two things about the Big Ten. The first thing is that Ohio State is far and away the best team in the league.

The second is that we really don't know anything about anyone else. When you get past Ohio State you could make an argument for any number of Big Ten teams to be the second-best team in the conference.

And when you're trying to figure out which team is better than which there's only one way to do it: arbitrary power rankings. So let's rank some power, shall we?

1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) - Do you think Urban Meyer is ever going to lose a game with the Buckeyes? We're already 17 games into his tenure and we're still waiting for it. There's a chance that the toughest test Ohio State was going to face this season just took place over the weekend when the Buckeyes knocked off Wisconsin.

This team has the best coach and the best player in the conference, and it shows. There's no other choice for the top spot.

2. Northwestern (4-0, 0-0) - This is how strange things are in the Big Ten right now. I sat there, staring at my computer screen trying to figure out who the second best team in the Big Ten was and I actually settled on Northwestern. But, at the moment, it's a deserved reward for the Wildcats who are off to a 4-0 start and have looked like the best team in the Legends Division so far this season. Of course, we'll find out just how good this team actually is when those Buckeyes come to Evanston on Saturday night.

3. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) - The Badgers have two losses already but I'm still not totally convinced they aren't the second-best team in this league. But that second loss -- even if the first one to Arizona State really shouldn't count -- made me place them third. From Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema to Gary Andersen, this is a team that just churns out fantastic running backs, and the latest one, Melvin Gordon, is going to win this team a lot of games.

4. Michigan (4-0, 0-0) - I know, I know. Losing to this Michigan team is what got Paul Pasqualoni fired -- all right, maybe it was the 10-18 record and the loss to Towson -- and the Wolverines struggled against both UConn and a very bad Akron team. But, seriously, aside from Ohio State this team probably has the most talent in the Big Ten. It's just been killing itself with turnovers, and even with its inability to hold on to the football, it still hasn't lost a game. Should the Wolverines get their act together and should Devin Gardner learn how to tuck a football, the Wolverines will pose a real threat to Ohio State in the last game of the regular season.

5. Iowa (5-1, 1-0) - I don't actually know how good this Iowa team really is considering that the best team it has played is Northern Illinois, and it lost that game. What I do know is that, as boring as it is, Kirk Ferentz's babyproof offense and sturdy defense is working a whole hell of a lot better this season than it did last year. I also know that life is about to get a lot more difficult with Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin the next four games on the slate.

6. Nebraska (3-1, 0-0) - Listen, Nebraska's defense is terrible. I don't have to tell you that. It's obvious. But you know what? This team still has the second-best quarterback in the Big Ten, and that goes a long way in this sport. While I don't think my preseason prediction that this team would win the Legends Division is going to come through, I still think the Cornhuskers are going to take care of most of their Big Ten opponents from here on out.

7. Michigan State (3-1, 0-0) - A team with a fantastic defense and an offense that makes your eyes bleed. Still, the defense is so good that it's going to keep the Spartans in just about every game, which makes this team dangerous. Not as dangerous as the offense is to your enjoyment of life, but dangerous all the same.

8. Penn State (3-1, 0-0) - This ranking seems a bit low, even to me, but while I have all the confidence in the world in Christian Hackenberg's future, he's still a bit shaky at this point. Plus the Nittany Lions lost at home to UCF and their three wins are against Syracuse, Eastern Michigan and Kent State. That's not exactly a murderer's row. I do think this team will climb higher as the year goes on, though.

9. Illinois (3-1, 0-0) - This Illinois team is not as good as its record would indicate. It may have only lost to Washington by 10 points but it was outgained by 300 yards in the process, and the defense is still made of scotch tape and nightmares. However, the offense is vastly improved and the Illini already have more wins this season than they did in all of 2012.

10. Minnesota (4-1, 0-0) - Minnesota fans will think this is too low, but they're just going to have to deal with it. The manner in which the Gophers lost at home to Iowa should tell you everything you need to know about this team right now. Plus I have a hard time giving this team a lot of credit for its wins over UNLV, New Mexico State, Western Illinois and San Jose State. With a murderous conference schedule ahead it's entirely possible the Gophers won't pick up another win this season.

11. Indiana (2-2, 0-0) - I think Indiana's first game of the season basically said everything you need to know about the Hoosiers. Yes, this is a team that's capable of putting up 73 points in a game, but it's also a team that's capable of giving up 35 points to Indiana State. If the Hoosiers are playing a team with a bad defense it is going to do a lot of damage, but it's going to struggle against most Big Ten teams. Getting to a bowl game will be very difficult.

12. Purdue (1-4, 0-1) - Oh Purdue. Poor, poor, pitiful Purdue. I think you have the right coach, but man does Darrell Hazell have a lot of work to do with this bunch. We just got to October and already the entire season boils down to hoping freshman quarterback Danny Etling can show you something to be optimistic about heading into 2014.

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